The No. 6 Badgers (3-1 Big Ten, 9-2 overall) bid adieu to 2020 by running the No. 21 Minnesota Golden Gophers (2-2 Big Ten, 9-2 overall) out of the Kohl Center by a score of 71-59. Gard’s squad was able to almost entirely shut down Minnesota’s offense including star point guard Marcus Carr, who scored 10 points on 11 field goals.
The Badgers started out significantly stronger than they did against Maryland on Monday, at least on the defensive side. Carr was held in check for what seemed like the first time this season by D’Mitrik Trice. Carr had just five points on 2-6 shooting in the first half as well as two turnovers and two fouls. Minnesota as a team missed their first eight shots and endured a five minute-long scoring drought in the middle of the first half, but the Badgers could hardly create a lead.
Gard’s squad seemed to heavily emphasize post play, but even eight early points from Micah Potter couldn’t separate the Badgers from the Gophers. Wisconsin took a seven point lead into the locker room, which could have been significantly more considering Minnesota’s seven turnovers and 19% shooting clip.
While the Badgers dominated defensively, their offense never got chugging like it did against Michigan State on Christmas Day. They shot just under 40% from the field in the first half, but most of their field goal attempts were in the paint and shot only 2-9 from distance. On the other end, the Gophers shredded the Badgers on the offensive glass with nine offensive boards in just the first half. There was a faint reminiscence of Monday’s upset as each team once again failed to reach 30 points by halftime as the Badgers led 29-22.
Though the Gophers had every chance to come back in the second half, they came out of the locker room flat once again. The Badgers almost immediately went on a run while the Gophers shot 2-8 in the first four minutes and the Badgers took a double-digit lead. Carr also drew his third foul early on in the second half.
It wasn’t long until the Badgers had a 19-point lead with more than 12 minutes to go in the game. Wisconsin’s defense didn’t falter against Carr and the Gophers lost whatever wind they had in their sails once Aleem Ford and Brad Davison started hitting their threes. By the time there were seven minutes left in the game, the Badgers had more than doubled their score and held Minnesota to just 14 points in 13 minutes of play. Potter would finish the game with 18 points and 11 rebounds on 8-15 shooting.
The Gophers went on a 11-4 run late in the second half, but that only brought them within 17 points. Richard Pitino’s Gophers were quite frankly outmatched, but they do have the silver lining of Gabe Kalscheur’s improved play. Kalscheur had struggled mightily from deep prior to this season, but he shot 3-10 from distance at the Kohl Center today. This is far from ideal, but Kalscheur was one of the Big Ten’s premier 3-point shooters last season, so even incremental improvement is vital to the Gophers for the rest of the season.
The Badgers will start 2021 in State College, Pa. as they take on unranked Penn State on their home court on Sunday.